When you see a house with a wide bright green lawn, maybe a white picket fence, and some kind of roundish tree plopped down in the middle, you are seeing an elegant expression of managerial control. Little upkeep, chemically enhanced, low maintenance.
I listened to a good podcast yesterday from The Barefoot Beekeeper, The decline of Birds and Bees, which was sort of depressing as these things are, but also intriguing because it’s clear we can each do quite a lot, and quite simply: don’t use pesticides and let a little chaos into your garden life.
The Barefooot Beekeeper and the speaker, Kevin Cox come to us from the UK where the once ubiquitous english hedgerows are disappearing, favoring easier to manage and maintain fences. Those hedgerows have thrived for hundreds of years, are deeply complex habitats and very effective at creating dense boundaries. They are a simple thing, you might take them for granted, just like we might take marginal weed-and-and-wild infested areas for granted…until they’re gone. And then slowly we realize the role they play in complex, healthy environments. Hedgerows are in fact habitats for birds and pollinators of all kinds, beyond their immediate usefulness to the landowner.
“…the thing he finds most destructive to birds and pollinators across the board is our penchant for tidy.“
Recently I’ve noticed more parks in the Seattle area allowing marginal spaces to grow unabated, with a nod towards diversity and complexity in the local flora and fauna. In my own half-acre, we allow the perimeters to grow dense and complex (much to our neighbors’ potential disapproval) because those marginal areas are busy corridors, nesting areas and feeding grounds. It’s truly astonishing how this tiny eco-system has changed in the years we’ve lived here, based in large part on the dense complexity of those areas. The more complex those areas are, the better things work overall, I’ve noticed.
Kevin Cox said at the end of the talk that the thing he finds most destructive to birds and pollinators across the board is our penchant for “tidy.” Tidy lawns and gardens, tidy roads and walkways, tidy, well-managed and care-efficient spaces all around. Except nothing natural does well in what we call tidy.
Wednesday evening I attended a talk at Town Hall with Marla Spivak and Bob from Common Acre and there it was again: our penchant for tidy, for well-managed, for control was at the center of things going very wrong. Those hedgerows and uncut areas in parks all have a diversity of flowering plants and grasses that have a key role in the whole great chain of being. Her main point suggestions for two things we can do today to help turn things around: grow a wide variety of common flowers, and don’t use pesticides.
“..two things we can do today to help turn things around: grow a wide variety of common flowers, and don’t use pesticides.”
I’m wondering if we can learn to see beauty in a less-tidy world?